Festival Review: Mangata 2023

Words: Sam Christelow
Photos: Rae Dowling
Tuesday 08 August 2023
reading time: min, words

Mangata Festival made a triumphant return to Nottingham in July, bringing three stages of thrilling rock and metal to the masses...

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The setup was a little different to last year, moving from a full weekend event at The Old Cold Store to a one-day romp at Rescue Rooms/Red Rooms (plus a free entry stage at The Tap n’ Tumbler) and I think this was an excellent change for Mangata - more bang for your buck on the day, and easier travel/accommodation for those coming from further afield.  

Nottingham’s finest math rock band a-tota-so were sublime opening up the Red Rooms stage. “We’re the pop band of the day,” vocalist and guitarist Marty joked, alluding to the deluge of metal filling the rest of the day’s itinerary, although their angular guitar lines and string of guest vocalists (including the mysteriously named “Metal Joe”) place them rather far from what you might hear on Capital FM.

Just a few steps outside the Red Rooms doors sprawled the mighty Rescue Rooms, the site of a few too many drunken singalongs to 2000s indie hits, now transformed into a cold and barren wasteland by Draconian Reign’s dark symphonic deathcore. The Nottingham quintet were fresh off an appearance at UK Tech Fest and it really shows, the music was fast and technically very impressive.

As the third main stage band of the day they were in one of the most awkward spots on any festival line-up, where the audience are just about warmed up but not fully loosened yet, but Draconian Reign did an excellent job of hyping up the room and were rewarded with the first mosh pit of the day. Humourously, I bumped into the vocalist in Rock City later (much later…) that evening, it’s good to know even the most evil of bands like a bit of cheesy pop punk on a night out.

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Next up was another change in pace, Sugar Horse with their brand of post-metal? Doomgaze? Or as they like to call it “staggeringly average” music. They were awesome, bringing an all-encompassing sound ranging from sparse, wistful melodies to crushing guitar chords and screamed vocals. They even played one song that was over fifteen minutes long. Far from average in my humble opinion.

Every good festival day involves a pint or two in the sun (or rain, if you live in Britain) and Jake and I used our allocated drinking time for a quick interview with Marty and Jack from a-tota-so:

You guys have got a pretty big summer ahead, playing at big festivals like ArcTanGent and having already played at Portals, how does it compare playing a smaller, more local festival like Mangata?
In the past year since we got all the guest vocalists in [on 2022’s Lights Out] this is like the second metal festival we’ve played, so we are always going in thinking “they’re gonna hate us” but it’s been two now where we’ve gone down ok and that’s good, it makes us more comfortable doing it. Even if we are the pop band of the lineup.

I think you need variety on a lineup too, no one wants to see metal metal metal all day!
Marty: Suuurely you appreciate a wee break from the metal!
Jack: At least we make the next breakdown sound so much heavier

How did you feel your set went down today? As the second band of the day, I think you pulled a really big crowd.
Marty: Chuffed! Really really chuffed.
Jack: I feel like it was a good start to the day, you know a lot of people might not rock up for the first band, but the second band they’re like “yeah, that’s cool".

Anything else you want to say to the Leftlion readers?
Marty: Come and see on 11 August at JT Soar!

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Under assault from heavier rainfall we scuttled back into the shelter of Rescue Rooms and the warm embrace of RED METHOD. This was a performance packed full of metal stereotypes in the best way possible. Matching, ripped up costumes, a guitarist wearing a mask like Predator and lashings of black body paint really put me in the mood for some headbanging and RED METHOD certainly delivered. One to keep an eye on, for sure.

Later on, the main venue was packed for headliners Heart Of A Coward. The British metalcore veterans brought their A-game to cap off the day and the crowd raised their energy to meet them, opening up the largest mosh pit of the day by a pretty wide margin. I saw one guy holding up a lost shoe in there, so it must have been pretty good. Smash-hit Hollow resonated with the crowd, and LeftLion's own Rae Dowling was ecstatic to hear her favourite song performed live.

With my itch for metal somehow not fully scratched, I popped over to Tap n' Tumbler to end my day with Master Charger. The stoner/sludge metal outfit provided a nice change of tone, although I could have done without the speech on cancel culture and three white men dedicating their song Social Witch Hunt to "respecting everyone's opinion". Bleh.

Mangata Festival was a triumph once again, and if you feel like you missed out on the best day of heavy music Nottingham has to offer, then fear not! Details for Mangata 2024 are coming soon. This year's setup was a solid improvement over last year and I really appreciated the inclusion of the free entry Tap n' Tumbler stage. Rock on, Nottingham.

Mangata Festival took place on 15 July 2023.


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